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Schools prepared technologically for PARCC tests


April 3, 2014
By Chris Maza

chrism@thereminder.com

EAST LONGMEADOW – If there are any issues with the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) testing in East Longmeadow, they won’t have anything to do with technology, according to East Longmeadow Information Technology Director Ryan Quimby.

East Longmeadow Public Schools was among the local districts that were chosen to take part in the pilot testing of the exam, which aligns with Common Core standards and will eventually replace the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System testing if adopted by the state.

In addition to paper and pencil tests, the PARCC assessments will also contain computerized components. East Longmeadow High School as well as Mapleshade and Mountain View elementary schools were chosen to participate in the computerized trials.

Quimby acknowledged that there have been questions from residents of East Longmeadow, as well as several other municipalities, about the schools’ technological readiness.

“The PARCC testing has a very stringent set of standards that you need to set up on the computer to produce the test and a lot of the computers, especially in our computer labs, are old,” he said, pointing out that a large portion of the schools’ proposed capital expenditures for fiscal year 2015 targeted these shortcomings.

However, he said, East Longmeadow was able to use existing technology called VMWare that is currently utilized by other departments, including the Police Department and administrative offices, to effectively administer the test.

“We have a very robust VMWare environment through which we are able to create virtual desktops,” he said.

A virtual desktop is an interface that allow users to utilize a computer beyond what might be a limited capability because the desktop is run directly through the town’s servers and not through the computer’s hard drive.

“We build one computer that fits all of the requirements for the PARCC and through the VMWare software, if we need 65 computers running the same thing, we can push out 65 [virtual desktops] with those specifications,” he said. “The students can log on and take their test and once they log out, that desktop is erased and another one can take its place.”

Quimby noted that it could also be used on a variety of computers, regardless of their operating system.

“When we go Apple on the school side, let’s say there’s software that needs to run on a PC, you can run a virtual desktop on a Mac, on an iPad, or you can even pull it up on your iPhone,” he said.

To this point, Quimby said, there have not been any issues.

“What we did beforehand was we ran a trial with all of the kids who were going to take the field test beforehand, which was good because it identified some glitches that we had in our configurations,” he said. “We were able to take care of those so when the high schools started last week, the environment was ready to go.”

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